Today’s Headlines

  • With ARC Dead, Through-Running May Be Solution for Penn Station Congestion (WSJ)
  • Upper West Side Leaders Survey Columbus Ave. Merchants For Facts on Bike Lane (DNAinfo)
  • Mother Hit on Sunset Park Sidewalk Still Too Injured to See 9-Month-Old Twins (News)
  • News Demands an Apology From Walder Over Blizzard Response
  • Post: MTA Overruns Vindicate Christie’s ARC Decision
  • Greenwire Has Just One Complaint About Select Bus Service: It Doesn’t Go Far Enough
  • Mature D.C. Press Opts Not To Import “Bike Bedlam” (GGW)
  • Snowstorm + Holidays Lead to Record Streak Without Alternate Side Parking (City Room)
  • Brooklyn Cruise Ships Spew Fumes While Officials Squabble Over Cost of Fix (News)
  • Video: How to Put Yourself and Others at Risk in an NYC Blizzard (Gothamist)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Larry Littlefield

    “While much of the region’s suburban growth is expected to be in New Jersey in coming years, NJ Transit doesn’t have room to grow.”

    Perhaps if the infrastructure isn’t going to be modified, the destination of the economic growth should be.

  • “Though on Friday, Dec. 24, the National Weather Service forecast up to a 40% chance of 6 inches of snow, the MTA declared only a Plan 1 response – the lowest of four levels. Standard operating procedure calls for a Plan 4 full-emergency response when 5 inches are predicted.”

    40 % of 6 inches is 2.4 inches. Does the News think the MTA should go into overdrive every time there’s a slight chance of snow? I certainly think the MTA screwed up once it started to snow, but based on the weather report on Friday, they didn’t do anything wrong until Saturday evening.

  • Perhaps if the infrastructure isn’t going to be modified, the destination of the economic growth should be.

    It will be, Larry. Population projections always contain a big helping of wishful thinking. If people can’t get to work easily, they usually won’t settle there – unless they’re blinded by glamour. Unless NJ expands the train network or the highways, the number of people wanting a house out in Hackensack will go down.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Unless NJ expands the train network or the highways, the number of people wanting a house out in Hackensack will go down.”

    Two questions worth asking:

    How often do people have to face standing for an hour or more after having paid commuter rail prices before they are no longer willing to work in New York City and live in New Jersey?

    How high does the difference in housing prices between NYC and the rest of the U.S. have to be before young people and businesses move away?

  • J:Lai

    “40 % of 6 inches is 2.4 inches.”

    The forecast was 40% chance of AT LEAST 6 inches, so it’s not accurate to say the expected snowfall was 2.4 inches. While I agree that it would be counterproductive for the MTA to go to high alert anytime there is a chance of snow, the upper end of the forecasts were in the 24 inch range. The leadership took a gamble that the snowfall would be less than predicted, and they lost.

  • Joe R.

    “How often do people have to face standing for an hour or more after having paid commuter rail prices before they are no longer willing to work in New York City and live in New Jersey?

    How high does the difference in housing prices between NYC and the rest of the U.S. have to be before young people and businesses move away?”

    Larry, you pose some good questions. Part of the reason for the sprawl which is the cause of auto use and its attendant problems is the high cost of housing in transit-friendly places like NYC. The fact is nationwide the demand for urban housing exceeds the supply. This isn’t an intractable problem. NYC can build bare-bones housing for the poor and middle class while still turning a profit. The problem is more of a profit is made on luxury housing, so there’s little incentive to build affordable housing. The market won’t correct this shortage on its own. Rather, we need to either provide incentives to build affordable housing ( i.e. subsidies which bring up the profit margins to something similar to luxury housing ), or even better, provide severe disincentives to build luxury housing in the form of MUCH higher real estate taxes. The problem can be fixed. We just need to political will to do so. The problem right now is influential real estate developers don’t want anyone to stop their gravy train. Besides building a glut of luxury condos, they drove the price of single family homes through the roof in the outer boroughs by buying homes, renting them out ( a practice that should be illegal with single family homes ), and/or enlarging a few to drive up the prices on all their real estate holdings. In short, they artificially manipulated the market.

    The idea that someone should live 50 miles away in NJ, and drive into NYC every day for work, is franky a ridiculous notion not really seen anywhere else except in the US. People should live within reasonable distances of where they work, and their housing choices shouldn’t be restricted because of ridiculously high housing prices caused by a skewed real estate market. I’m not saying working people need to have affordable housing on Park Avenue, but some in upper or lower Manhattan, and a lot more in the outer boroughs near subway stations, would seem to make sense.

  • Joe R.

    Regarding transit capacity problems at Penn Station and elsewhere, it’s high time we seriously looked at staggered business hours. I know this idea has been floated in the past but never taken seriously. A lot of the costs of transit systems are caused by building for rush hour capacity which isn’t used most of the day. The idea that everyone needs to work 9 to 5 belongs in the last century. Perhaps we need economic incentives to get businesses to change their ways. Give tax credits for businesses which allow employees to work non-9-to-5 hours. Make the credits larger the further away from 9-to-5 the employee’s hours are. And give even larger credits when employees can telecommute. The problem isn’t the transit systems. Rather, it’s the idea that a majority of workers need to be at their offices at the same time ( or at all for those who just sit in front of a computer all day ), even in industries which don’t interact with each other at all. Why not have different standard hours for different industries? 9 to 5 is really just a habit more than a business necessity nowadays.

  • Joe, you realize stations with one quarter the footprint of Penn Station shunt twice as many people per day, right?

  • Andrew

    Larry, you pose some good questions. Part of the reason for the sprawl which is the cause of auto use and its attendant problems is the high cost of housing in transit-friendly places like NYC. The fact is nationwide the demand for urban housing exceeds the supply. This isn’t an intractable problem. NYC can build bare-bones housing for the poor and middle class while still turning a profit. The problem is more of a profit is made on luxury housing, so there’s little incentive to build affordable housing. The market won’t correct this shortage on its own. Rather, we need to either provide incentives to build affordable housing ( i.e. subsidies which bring up the profit margins to something similar to luxury housing ), or even better, provide severe disincentives to build luxury housing in the form of MUCH higher real estate taxes. The problem can be fixed. We just need to political will to do so. The problem right now is influential real estate developers don’t want anyone to stop their gravy train. Besides building a glut of luxury condos, they drove the price of single family homes through the roof in the outer boroughs by buying homes, renting them out ( a practice that should be illegal with single family homes ), and/or enlarging a few to drive up the prices on all their real estate holdings. In short, they artificially manipulated the market.

    I disagree with your premise. Any additional supply of urban housing, even if it’s luxury housing, will reduce the price of what remains. If the problem is a supply-demand imbalance – and I agree that it is – then increasing the supply sufficiently will solve the problem. If we’re providing incentives, it should be to provide more housing, period. Of course, we also need to make sure that our transportation network has adequate capacity (whether that means trains or buses or bike lanes or sidewalks or whatever else is appropriate for the circumstances).

    Regarding transit capacity problems at Penn Station and elsewhere, it’s high time we seriously looked at staggered business hours. I know this idea has been floated in the past but never taken seriously. A lot of the costs of transit systems are caused by building for rush hour capacity which isn’t used most of the day. The idea that everyone needs to work 9 to 5 belongs in the last century. Perhaps we need economic incentives to get businesses to change their ways. Give tax credits for businesses which allow employees to work non-9-to-5 hours. Make the credits larger the further away from 9-to-5 the employee’s hours are. And give even larger credits when employees can telecommute. The problem isn’t the transit systems. Rather, it’s the idea that a majority of workers need to be at their offices at the same time ( or at all for those who just sit in front of a computer all day ), even in industries which don’t interact with each other at all. Why not have different standard hours for different industries? 9 to 5 is really just a habit more than a business necessity nowadays.

    Tax credits can be abused. If the problem is that the transportation system can’t handle the rush hour loads, then charge more during rush hours. That means higher subway and commuter rail fares during rush hours (even for monthly passes) and higher user fees for motorists (increased tolls, congestion pricing, whatever). Employers will realize that they can give their employees effective raises at no cost, and will allow flex time or telecommuting where feasible.

  • Joe R.

    @Alon Levy,

    Yes, I realize that. Penn Station could undoubtedly handle more trains and people if the antiquated signaling system was upgraded. And it goes without saying that better adherence to schedules would go a long way towards solving any problems. Just look at Japan’s Shinkansen lines for inspiration. Most are double-tracked with passing sidings at stations. And yet they manage to coordinate a huge number of trains, both local and express, mostly without incident. Why? Simple-the trains are where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be. The local is in the station on the siding so the express can pass it. When the local departs it fits neatly in the slot between the express which just passed and the next one. It arrives at the following station in time to get out of the way of the express behind it. Penn Station has some of the same issues in that if a train arriving late needs a platform, it’s going to throw everything else off. Amtrak controls the entire NorthEast Corridor. They really have no excuses, such as freights, to blame when they don’t run on time. That being said, we really need another pair of tracks under the Hudson. It’s a shame ARC was killed. The NEC is mostly four track but those two tracks in the tunnel right now create a major bottleneck.

    @Andrew,

    Well, no arguing the glut in luxury housing is having some effect of reducing housing prices in general. I agree if we provide enough incentives to build housing, eventually much of it would by definition be affordable. The luxury housing market is pretty much saturated as it is. Any developer dumb enough to build housing with a lot of frills at this point will lost their shirt.

    And I did think of congestion pricing, higher rush hour fairs, etc. The problem with this isn’t the concept. It’s a great idea in theory and in practice. Rather, politically it’s a hard sell because it’s a stick, whereas tax credits are a carrot. Regardless of how it’s done, we need to seriously look at both spreading out the rush hour, and getting more people to telecommute.

  • Andrew

    We’ve been providing carrots for decades. Unfortunately, we’ve run out of carrots. We’re going to have to use more and more sticks, some bigger than others.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Alon, you seem to imply excess dwell time at Penn Station. My guess is that is one of the constraints that lead to platform shortages. But it’s not so easy to get on and off trains with that many seats, especially if everyone is getting on or off at the same terminal station.

    I suppose one option is build new terminals in the Meadowlands to somehow terminate all non-Amtrak service in New Jersey, and buy new cars with no seats to shuttle passengers from Secaucus Transfer. That would work up to a point.